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Mol Biol Cell. 2017 May 15;28(10):1285-1287. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E16-07-0509.

Lynn Margulis and the endosymbiont hypothesis: 50 years later.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Centre for Comparative Genomics and Evolutionary Bioinformatics, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS B3H 4R2, Canada


The 1967 article "On the Origin of Mitosing Cells" in the Journal of Theoretical Biology by Lynn Margulis (then Lynn Sagan) is widely regarded as stimulating renewed interest in the long-dormant endosymbiont hypothesis of organelle origins. In her article, not only did Margulis champion an endosymbiotic origin of mitochondria and plastids from bacterial ancestors, but she also posited that the eukaryotic flagellum (undulipodium in her usage) and mitotic apparatus originated from an endosymbiotic, spirochete-like organism. In essence, she presented a comprehensive symbiotic view of eukaryotic cell evolution (eukaryogenesis). Not all of the ideas in her article have been accepted, for want of compelling evidence, but her vigorous promotion of the role of symbiosis in cell evolution unquestionably had a major influence on how subsequent investigators have viewed the origin and evolution of mitochondria and plastids and the eukaryotic cell per se.

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